A story from Rumal Khan on the electioneering trail in Portsmouth North:
I was talking to shoppers as they stopped at our Labour Party Street Stall when I noticed a man watching us from across the road. I went over to talk to him.
At first the man was reticent, thinking I was ‘just another politician’ because I was dressed smartly. But I told him what I believe, and that is that I try to dress smartly to talk to people because I respect them.
The man was less reticent then and he told me a very sad story.
He is an ex serviceman. He served in the British Armed Forces for 22 years.
But now he is unemployed and homeless. He said:
“Why has this happened to me?”
“I have done nothing wrong. I served my country. I risked my life and was proud to do so. And yet now no one wants to know me.”
The man’s story moved me to tears.
I have worked with unemployed people for many years, helping them to overcome difficulties and find work. But this man had worked hard and had done all he could to do the right thing for 22 years!
And as someone who wants to make things better for people, this saddens me. Because this man has no faith in politicians. He feels that politicians over the last few years have taken away all his respect.
I would never want to be a politician like that, but it is hard to convince someone who feels he has been treated so badly by people who are supposed to represent him.
And that is why I could never be a Conservative.
Conservatives talk about ‘heroes’ when they refer to our service men and women, but they don’t back that up with real respect for their lives.
Families of Armed Forces members often live on low wages and have been hit by the bedroom tax. Members of the Armed Forces who have been injured while on duty are finding it difficult to get recompense under this Conservative Government.
And our veterans are leaving the services unable to find work and even homes, because of the Conservative austerity economy and a Conservative disregard for veterans who need specialist public services.
It is Labour who know that we have a duty to properly reward and remunerate our Armed Forces with the pay and living conditions that their service merits.
And it is Labour who are fully committed to supporting our veterans, with a Homes Fit For Heroes program and with an emphasis on prompt access to support and compensation for those injured while serving.
It will be difficult to convince everyone that Labour really cares about our armed forces personnel, especially those like the ex serviceman I met at the street stall.
But we have to try.
It saddens me that this Government has allowed some of our veterans to end up this way. And I really hope that the voters realise that it is Labour who want to support our Armed Service Personnel, both serving and ex-service.
Because it would be dreadful for this sad situation to be allowed to continue.